Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Curtis Durocher, founder of Fullstrong Coffee, located in Kentville, NS, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Fullstrong Coffee is a coffee roasting company that sells premium, roasted to order coffee. I also sell t-shirts, mugs, and unroasted beans to other coffee companies. Fullstrong Coffee is sold throughout the world. My home is Nova Scotia, but my coffee has found its way all over North America, Europe, as far as Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, and even a remote indigenous community in Northern British Colombia. Fullstrong even found a place at Olympic Village at the Toyko Olympics. As a former high-level athlete who competed in multiple sports, I market my coffee to many athletes who need a boost to perform at their max. I also try to be as active in my local community as possible. Every Saturday, you can find me as a regular vendor at the Wolfville Farmers Market. I love to talk to people in the community about Fullstrong.
Tell us about yourself
In 2015 during a trip to Vancouver Island, I first visited a coffee roaster. It was here that I was introduced to what roasting actually entails. I went back to Calgary and began to roast 100 grams of coffee at a time in a popcorn maker out of my garage. It wasn’t for profit, just for fun and the experience. I wanted to learn about light, dark, unroasted, and burnt smells and the sounds of good coffee. I do not use roast charts or graphs when I roast. I find it interesting, and it can be useful for consistency, but I roast based on my senses. After thousands of roasts, you get the hang of it. What motivates me is simple: I want to surprise people. I want them to taste a coffee they never knew existed. I make a point to find interesting beans that most roasters won`t use. Either because they are too expensive, or you can only get a small amount, and after it is gone, you cannot get more. My selection is constantly changing, and I look for beans that interest me and that no one has heard about. For example, I have a bean coming in from Costa Rica that is processed using thermic fermentation. What is that? Is it good? I do a lot of research into the beans I buy. But if it is unique and interesting, I want to offer it.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In May 2020, I told myself, I am creating a coffee company, and it will be successful. There was no backup plan, and I didn’t even consider the possibility of failure. A year and a half later, I am shocked at how far my reach is and how many people I have introduced to amazing coffee.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing is reinvesting all of your profits for future growth. Every dollar the company earns, I put back into the pot. Shipping costs, packaging costs, gas money to deliver. The list goes on and on. In a conventional 9 to 5 job, you collect your money and go home for the weekend. When it is your own company, you get no breaks, no days off, and it can feel like you are in a constant struggle to keep your head above water. But it would be best if you always looked at the long term. Keep moving forward.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- It will be tough. Focus on quality and long-term goals.
- Take time for yourself because you will burn yourself out. I carve out time every day to play with my 16-month-old daughter. No phones, no T.V., just me and her. This is a major stress reliever for me and recharges my battery.
- Be open to collaborating. I work with many other coffee roasters and importers. I know who I am and what my company is. I know my product is unique, so I always work with and support other roasters in any way possible. There are about 3 billion coffee drinkers in this world. There is space for all of us.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
There have been times when I have had the opportunity to use lower-quality coffee in an effort to increase profits. For example, I could substitute a higher quality bean for a lower quality bean out and make the blend more profitable in a blend. Most people would not know the difference. This can be tempting, but I don`t do it because this is not what I want to create. This is not the coffee I would drink and this goes against why my company exists. You must stick to your principles. You will always have moments to make more money if you sacrifice your quality. Remember why you started your company. Remember why your customers buy and share and buy your product again.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.